White House silent on Massachusetts freedom to marry ruling

Posted by Denise Lavoie of The Associated Press on washingtonpost.com:

"A key part of a law denying married gay couples federal benefits has been thrown out the window in Massachusetts, the first state to legalize the freedom to marry. The ball now lies in the White House's court, which must carefully calculate the next move by an administration that has faced accusations it has not vigorously defended the law of the land. 

"President Barack Obama has said repeatedly that he would like to see the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, repealed. But the Justice Department has defended the constitutionality of the law, which it is required to do.

"The administration was silent Friday on whether it would appeal rulings by U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro. Spokespeople for the White House and the Justice Department said officials are still reviewing the rulings.

... "Tauro ruled Thursday in two separate cases that DOMA is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples an array of federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including health insurance and the benefits of filing joint tax returns.

... "Under federal rules, there is an automatic 14-day stay of judgments in civil cases, so same-sex couples in Massachusetts won't be able to file for benefits immediately, said Gary Buseck, legal director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. If the Justice Department appeals Tauro's rulings, the court would likely grant a stay while the appeal is pending, he said."

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